Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Recipe: Greek Beef and Green Bean Stew (Μοσχάρι με Φασολάκια)

Greeks do wondrous things with braised green beans (Fasolakia - Φασολάκια in Greek).

I’ve eaten countless bowls of Fasolakia in Greece. I enjoy it best when I’m sitting outdoors under a shade tree, eating slowly to make it last, sipping wine, and watching the world go by.

In Alaska, I make Fasolakia often. Our climate may not be commodious, but the flavors of Fasolakia bring me straight back to Greece even when it’s snowing outside.

During the many Greek Orthodox fasting periods, green beans are braised in tomato sauce seasoned with fresh herbs. Sometimes potato, zucchini, or other vegetables are included in the stew. Although they don’t contain meat, these slow-cooked braises are full of flavor.

At other times of the year, green beans are braised with lamb or beef. Both are delicious. In Greece, I make this with low cost, high quality local lamb. In Alaska, I prefer using beef due to the cost and quality of lamb available in my state.

Greeks would say this dish is made with veal (moschari - μοσχάρι) rather than beef (vothino - βοδινό, a term you rarely hear in Greece). Greek “veal,” however, is very different than what is called veal in American markets.

American veal comes from milk fed calves between one and three months old, and its flavor is very mild. Greek veal, on the other hand, generally comes from yearlings or older cattle. It’s flavorful meat and much closer to what is sold as beef in American markets than it is to American veal.

Costco, my local warehouse store, carries reasonably priced boneless short ribs; I like using them for stew because they have more flavor than leaner cuts of beef. The short ribs’ fat and connective tissue melt into the braising liquid, leaving the meat fork tender. The fat can easily be skimmed off before adding green beans to the stew.

Normally, I prefer cooking meat on the bone, since bones add good flavor and texture. It is quicker and easier, however, to use boneless cuts for stew, which is what I do when I don’t have time to fiddle with removing the bones.

Beef and Green Bean Stew is wonderful with feta cheese, olives, plenty of crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful sauce, and a glass of full-bodied red wine.

Greek Beef and Green Bean Stew (Μοσχάρι με Φασολάκια)
Serves 8
I usually make this recipe with fresh green beans and it’s fantastic, but the glorious sauce makes even frozen green beans taste amazingly good. Sometimes I add potatoes, which contrast nicely with the vivid tomato sauce. To include potatoes, add an additional cup of beef stock and 1 pound of peeled potatoes cut into 1” – 2” chunks; I prefer using Yukon Gold or red potatoes. Add the potatoes at the same time as the beans.

2 1/2 pounds boneless short ribs or other beef suitable for stewing
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups diced onion, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced carrots, 1/2” dice
1 cup diced celery, 1/2” dice
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 cup dry white wine
3 cups ground tomatoes, fresh or canned
2 cups beef stock
1 pound fresh, or 10 ounces frozen and thawed, green beans
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh mint

Wash and dry the beef, trim off and discard any large pieces of fat, and season the meat with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides; do this in batches to ensure the meat browns rather than steams. When the meat is browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan.

Stir in the onions, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and sauté until the onions soften. Use the moisture from the onions to help scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the garlic and Aleppo pepper and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Return the meat and its juices to the pan, along with the tomatoes and beef stock; stir well to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pan, turn down the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours, depending on the cut of beef.

While the beef is simmering, wash the green beans. If you are using fresh beans, break off both ends, and break in half. If you are using frozen beans, cut them in half.

After the meat has simmered for two hours, skim off any fat floating on the surface of the stew. Stir in the green beans, parsley, and mint. Continue to simmer for 45 – 60 minutes, or until the beans are very tender. Taste for seasoning and add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.

Serve immediately.
Since Greek Beef and Green Bean Stew is one of my favorite braises, I'm adding it to Swirling Notions' Braisy Chain and invite my friends and regular readers to join the chain by sending a recipe for their favorite braise to Swirling Notions.


Peter M said...

Laurie, this IS one of my favourite dishes, especially when I can find barbounia (runner beans).

Ivy said...

Wish I had greed beans at home I would sure like to make this wonderful dish. I prefer the lenten way without meat but my mother used to cook it with lamb. Actually I prefer all ladera without meat. I could not imagine that there would be a difference between Greek moschari and American beef.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Wow - that looks like a meal you can really get your teeth into. And great for the winter, too!

Peter G said...

Mmmm...like Peter M this is another favourite. I love dipping my bread in the "zoumi". I believe Greeks make the best fasolakia and I love them done any way. Great post as always Laurie.

Núria said...

This stew looks so comforting! I never added beans to my stew... I will try your way. Thanks!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I love Fasolakia. It is totally comfort food at its best.

Cheryl said...

I had fasolakia with beef for the first time this summer.(i had 3 helpings!) Before then, I was only familiar with plain fasolakia. I've tried using beef since summer so it would be more appealing to the kids. So far they just eat the beef but as they get older I'm sure that they'll eat more of the beef.
I like that you have white wine in this recipe. I've never tried that...it seems like a nice variation. Great post!!

Cheryl said...

I meant..."they'll eat more beans"...as usual...I'm exhausted and shouldn't be online! :)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I know so little of Greek cooking, but this dish sounds like something I should try. It sounds hearty and delicious...even if there are green beans. ;-)

Kevin said...

This stew sounds really tasty. I have generally avoided using green beans in soups and stews because I like them to be nice and crisp. I am now going to have to try braising them.

Maryann said...

I love the idea of adding potatoes :)

ThreeTastes said...

This is so funny — it's like we swapped out recipes! First with the preserved lemons, and now with the Fassolakia. Although I've never had the leisure in Greece to enjoy this wonderful braise under the shade, your vivid description takes me there and I will remember it the next time we have this! : )

Laurie Constantino said...

Peter, I've never made it or had it with runner beans, so I'll definitely have to try it.

Ivy, it's really not bad made with frozen beans. More often than not I make this without meat, but I enjoy it both ways. American beef is a little older than moschari - it's darker and has a slightly stronger beef flavor, but they really can be used interchangeably.

aforkfulofspaghetti, if you cook it right, the meat is very tender. And you are right, it is definitely winter fare.

Peter G, bread is an absolute must with this - I always sop up every last bit of zoumi, and leave my plate looking very clean!

Nuria, I'd be interested in how it turns out!

Jenn, yes, exactly. Perfect comfort food.

Cheryl - 3 helpings - that is quite a testament! The wine adds another layer of flavor. I've tried it with red wine, which I normally use in beef stews, but the red wine doesn't really work with the beans - white wine is much better. (And I knew exactly what you meant the first time I read it!)

Mike, no cauliflower, no green beans? Maybe you need to go to vegetable boot camp!

Kevin, before I married a Greek I was just like you and always cooked my beans so they were nice and crisp. I was very dubious of long-cooked beans, but once I tried them I was hooked. As a side dish, I still keep my beans crisp, but I absolutely love the Greek way with braised vegetables. I'd be interested in your opinion if you ever try them.

Maryann, yes, you and my husband. He wanted to know where the potatoes were...

Manju, it is indeed like we are synchronizing our meals - I think it means we both like to eat the same things! It's probably why I enjoy your blog so much...

swirlingnotions said...

Laurie . . . I've got your dish up on Swirling Notions. Thanks for joining the Braisy Chain! I'll definitely be digging this out when I've got a surfeit of romano beans in my backyard this summer!

katiez said...

I have lots of green beans in my freezer from last summer...This will be perfect.
I loved them braised; with and without tomatoes!

Kandila_ana said...

I love Fasolakia, lenten, with potatoes and of course with beef or lamb. Total comfort food. Must have a big glass of Gala, a chunck of Feta and a real crusty bread. Hmmmm I'm in heaven. Gotta go now, I know what I'm making for dinner.